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Shaun Cole


Shaun Cole is Account Director at Ideafuel, a creative-led graphic design, marketing and branding agency based at the Think Tank in Lincoln.

Truly taking the time to understand the person or company you are targeting as a prospective customer can help you to learn their trigger points – something that immediately causes the person to want to work with you. Trigger points may require a little research, but the rewards can be out of this world.

The story of the blonde and the coffee

It was another busy afternoon at Ideafuel when I received a sales call from an enthusiastic young woman. I agreed to a short meeting with her at our Lincoln studios. A few days later, the woman arrived with a coffee in her hand, passed it to me and said: “A cappuccino with two sugars – that’s right, isn’t it?”

I was gobsmacked. She had taken the time to research exactly how I liked my coffee by reading my posts on Twitter and LinkedIn. As a result of her using this trigger point, I gave her much more of my time than I had originally planned – and she made the sale.

One woman did her research well enough to pick up Shaun his coffee preference, which in turn led to a sale.

One woman did her research well enough to pick up Shaun his coffee preference, which in turn led to a sale.

It only cost £23

At Ideafuel, we frequently use trigger points to help our clients make their marketing campaigns ultra-targeted.

For example, a firm of debt recovery specialists wanted to contact the financial directors of prospective organisations. From our research, we found that receptionists often put obvious marketing materials straight in the bin. We clearly needed to do something to trigger these receptionists into passing the materials on.

So we sent each prospective company a leaflet and a cheque for £1. These cheques were passed on to the FDs because staff in the accounts department didn’t know how to process a £1 cheque that didn’t marry to an invoice.

From the first batch of around 600 letters – nearly half of the companies agreed to a meeting with the debt recovery company when it followed up the letters with a phone call.

And, get this: only 23 of the £1 cheques were cashed!

Top five tips to understanding trigger points

Trigger points don’t have to be complicated – here are five easy ways to understand them.

Do your research
The coffee example shows how a little research can go a long way when it comes to finding out someone’s trigger points. Research your potential customers and find out their likes, dislikes and responsibilities – then apply this knowledge to create ultra-targeted marketing campaigns.

Make it timely
Remember how the TV channels on Boxing Day used to be filled with holiday adverts? After the excitement of Christmas is over, people usually want something fun (and warmer!) to look forward to. This is a perfect example of companies applying timely trigger points.

Target the right people
In planning our campaign for the debt recovery company, we understood that the first people we really had to target were receptionists, even though they weren’t the main intended recipients. Think about who else will see your marketing message and how you can influence them.

Don’t forget the details
If the coffee given to me by the enterprising woman had only had one sugar, I would have been less impressed and she might not have made the sale. It was her accuracy and the fact that she had obviously taken the time to research me that really stood out. This shows how the slightest of details can truly make the sale.

Call to action
It is essential that a potential customer is encouraged to do something after receiving targeted marketing, whether that’s to call you for more information or to expect a call. Don’t let your efforts go to waste!

Shaun Cole is Account Director at Ideafuel, a creative-led graphic design, marketing and branding agency based at the Think Tank in Lincoln.

I always pore over the marketing strategies of super-successful businesses to see what it is they’ve done to build such large brands, and to see if we can apply any of these lessons in the work we do.

Starbucks is a phenomenal success story. It started life as a Seattle coffee bean roaster and retailer in 1971, and now has more than 20,000 outlets in 64 countries, according to its Wikipedia page. On average, Starbucks opens two new stores every day, and you don’t build a business of that size without having a brilliant marketing strategy and structure to support and sustain growth.

I’ve cherry-picked a few of the things that I think Starbucks’ marketing does very, very well.

Getting personal with customers
If you’ve been to a Starbucks recently and ordered a drink, you’ll know the staff always ask your name – which they write on your cup. When this initiative was launched in the UK in March 2012, there was a bit of a backlash at first because it was seen as too American and not very British. It did make me laugh that customers gave names ranging from “Tax Dodger” to “Ivor Biggun” though!

Once all the fun died down, a lot of regular customers actually loved the fact that the staff at their local Starbucks remembered their names. And you only have to do a quick Google search to see how many customers have shared pictures of their cups on social media.

Adding value
In my role, I’m on the road a lot, attending meetings and appointments. If I have time between them, I’ll always make a beeline for a Starbucks because I know I can access the free WiFi. This allows me to have a coffee, and maybe a cheeky cake, whilst cracking on with work. That little bit of extra value beyond the fare of coffees and cakes keeps me going back again and again.

Clusters of coffee shops
I didn’t realise this until I researched it, but part of Starbucks’ marketing strategy is to hit a new territory hard and open a few coffee shops there – often in very relatively close proximity to one another.

This is very clever, because it creates the impression in consumers’ minds that “they’re everywhere”, and this omnipresence often both compels consumers to use the stores, and validates the decision because they’re so accessible.

Great word of mouth
Word-of-mouth recommendations are a cornerstone of Starbucks’ marketing strategy, particularly when new stores are launched. I was flabbergasted to read that the marketing budget can be as little as 1% of Starbucks’ spend on advertising – which goes against the conventional wisdom of a figure much closer to 10%.

As a joined-up strategy, clearly points one and two play a key part in this as part of a process of building up a customer base of loyal fans.

Great offers
The words ‘Starbucks’ and ‘offers’ aren’t words you’d typically associate with one another. However, when the stores do them, they do them very well indeed.

The offers are usually focused around new products and done in a very engaging but understated way, which often makes a customer feel like they’re in on something that not everyone else knows about. And, let’s face it, all of us consumers feel like we’re “in the know” by taking advantage of promotions.Take a look at these great examples of the way Starbucks runs promotions.

Starbucks has proved that it can build a global empire using these marketing strategies, and any business of any size can learn from these great pointers.

Shaun Cole is Account Director at Ideafuel, a creative-led graphic design, marketing and branding agency based at the Think Tank in Lincoln.

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